President Barack Obama recently decided NOT to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan before his term of office ends in 2016, as he had earlier promised to do. California Congresswoman Barbara Lee—the only member of Congress to vote against the Afghanistan war 14 years ago in 2001—issued a statement against this open checkbook for an endless war, and introduced measures to stop it from continuing.
In contrast, Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton (not surprisingly) and Bernie Sanders (to my surprise and disappointment) supported the President. The press has treated the announcement of on-going war as a non-issue. A voice crying in the wilderness, John Nichols of the Nation magazine stated that Barbara Lee has the “clearest vision” on the Afghan War, noting that on this and other national defense issues, “Lee keeps being proved right.”
Afghanistan is now in its 4th decade of endless war. Neither of the great superpowers—the Soviet Union (1979-1989) nor the United States and NATO (2001-ongoing) have been able to come anywhere near “winning” what appears to be an unwinnable war, nor has either succeeded in installing a stable government in Afghanistan. The intervening years (1989-2001) were marked by the collapse of the Soviet-installed regime, followed by civil war, Taliban ascendancy, and further civil war. Although continued civil war and another Taliban ascendancy are not optimal outcomes for the people of Afghanistan, it ought to be clear, after 14 years of war, that American forces are incapable of defeating the Taliban or installing a stable democratic government. Indeed our continued presence is doing more harm than good. Our soldiers are dying, and we are killing people, including non-combatants, and destroying homes and infrastructures. The recent “accidental bombing” of a Doctors without Borders hospital by American forces is a case in point.
Here in Lesbos, 15,000 asylum-seekers arrived on rubber dinghies in pouring rain in the past several days. Among them are Syrians and Afghans fleeing war. European authorities consider the Syrians’ claim to refugee status to be more clear and pressing, but as the Greek Minister of Immigration recently said, the Afghans are also refugees of war—of wars that have been going on in their country for nearly 40 years.
Yesterday—in what is now becoming a daily occurrence—a woman, a 6 year old child, and a baby died in the attempt to reach the shores of Europe, while up to 13 people were reported missing. Even though winter rains and winds mean greater danger on the crossing, they keep coming, because as one refugee told a volunteer, “the danger is worse at home.”
In our village of some 1000 or fewer permanent residents, the numbers of refugees arriving daily are more than we are psychologically or physically prepared to handle. While some people have been working tirelessly all summer long, others are fearful and angry—suggesting in conversations that occur among us daily—that “we” should not have to be paying in loss of tourism for “their” problems. All parties concerned raise their hands and eyebrows in despair when the question of the “solution” to “the problem” is raised.
In the silence that follows I often suggest that the only “solution” to the problem of people leaving their homes in fear for their lives is TO END WAR. No one takes this suggestion seriously enough to engage it.
Obama’s decision to continue the war in Afghanistan will not create peace in Afghanistan, but it will increase the flow of refugees into Europe, many of them coming via Lesbos. This unwinnable war has cost the American people ONE TRILLION DOLLARS. It has cost the Afghan people a great deal more.
It is high time to listen to Barbara Lee.
Sign Barbara Lee’s petition to Stop Endless War.
Your help is needed: contact the (Molivos) Starfish Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org and specify “donate” or “volunteer” in the headline. Also see Help for Refugees in Molyvos.
Update: And now troops in Syria too. “The White House announced on Friday that a small number of U.S. troops are heading into northern Syria to assist local ground troops in the fight against the Islamic State. . . the announcement is in stark contrast with President Barack Obama’s 2013 promise of no ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria.”
Carol P. Christ leads the life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete (facebook and twitter). Carol’s books include She Who Changes and and Rebirth of the Goddess; with Judith Plaskow, the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions and forthcoming in 2016 from Fortress Press, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Explore Carol’s writing. Photo of Carol by Michael Honegger.